#StaffChat: Obehi’s TCG Fox Fellowship

#StaffChat posts feature issues, articles, and news that the C1 team discusses as part of our weekly all-staff meeting. We’d love to hear your thoughts too — hit us up on Facebook or Twitter!

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This post was written by Obehi Janice, who joined Company One’s staff as a resident actor last fall — we’ll be spending some time at our upcoming staff meeting chatting about what it means to be a resident actor at C1, and how Obehi can intersect with the various departments of the company through her work as a TCG Fox Foundation Fellow.

I first learned I was one of six actors nationwide to receive a Fox Foundation Fellowship through Theatre Communications Group in August 2015. In October 2015, I began attending weekly C1 staff meetings as part of the collective and contributing thoughts to the general decision-making model. In the midst of all this rapid change, and weeks prior to receiving the grant, I was cast in An Octoroon and We’re Gonna Die.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that my life has completely changed in a short amount of time. Never in my career did I think that I would have the opportunity to be a “resident actor”. C1’s belief in me as a growing actor, as well as their trust in me to be around the table week after week, signifies that even though we should all celebrate this unique opportunity, it is also a time for the collective to take a step back and ask, “What should this look like?”

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photo credit: Bi Jean Ngo

My cohort is the 10th round of Fox Foundation recipients. It’s an honor to be a part of this milestone because I can see how the grant has evolved. Within our cohort there are two categories: EXTRAORDINARY POTENTIAL (a sort of a mid-career category; also, I’m mid-career?) and DISTINGUISHED ACHIEVEMENT (actors who have been in the game for awhile; local actress and Actors’ Shakespeare Project Resident Actor Bobbie Steinbach is in this category). What I observed was this cool alignment in purpose among the three actors in each category. Reggie D. White, Bi Jean Ngo and I were interested in using theater as service, activism, and transformation. Bobbie Steinbach, Marissa Chibas, and James A. Williams are receiving support for mammoth-sized personal projects through research, training, and the creation of solo shows. It fascinates me that at a certain point in their careers they can finally say, “Me. I need to do this for me.” All in all, no matter the focus, the grant is life-changing for all of us and gives us big whopping spoon of encouragement to keep pushing and fighting for our careers. The built-in fellowship among the fellows is a blessing as well and I feel like I’ve found new family.

My fellowship activities currently reflect the plans I laid out in my initial application, which you can find a description of on the TCG site. The slightest change is that I will solely be working with the younger, school-age members of the Stage One program, rather than the adult actors in our PDA course.

My hope for the work I do with Stage One and the Apprentices is to take an integrative approach to supporting C1’s pedagogy with my personal pedagogy on storytelling, writing, and performing. I believe that an initial engagement prior to my trip to East Africa and more engagement after will result in a spirit of sharing that can benefit the company and my growth as an artist.

I think a year like this, where the timing of casting and staffing just happened so perfectly, gives the C1 staff a great opportunity to engage an actor with questions and hopes and doubts. I’m game to do the work to make the fellowship COUNT. I have some questions and I hope you have some questions for me! Some things I’m thinking about:

  • 1. What does “Resident Actor” even mean?
  • 2. During my fellowship orientation, I discovered that one of my core values is HONESTY. How can I best work on this value during weekly staff meetings and throughout the fellowship?
  • 3. As C1 continues to evaluate our mission and vision, how can I engage with our ongoing efforts toward equity and inclusion, even beyond casting?
  • 4. As a Black female artist in Boston, I’ve become hyper-aware of segregation and how that affects my experience acting on stage. What is the best way to share this perspective?
  • 5. Are there ways I can be of specific use to each department?
  • 6. What’s the best way for me to contribute when we are discussing a production that I’m a part of in-depth?
  • 7. What does it look like to have me represent C1 nationally and internationally?

We may not address all these questions in one sitting, but I’m grateful for the space to start.

More to come!

Obehi.